PlayStation Xbox
A hacking group called Phantom Squad vows to hack PlayStation and Xbox online networks this Christmas. Reuters

Last Christmas gamers' hearts were broken as hackers from a group called Lizard Squad decided to take down the online networks of PlayStation and Xbox. This year we may see more tears, as a new hacking collective – called Phantom Squad – has threatened it will strike again.

Gamers who wanted to play with their new consoles were left frustrated last year on Christmas Day when Lizard Squad took down PlayStation Network (PSN) and Xbox Live for two days using a DDoS attack. Anyone who wanted to play online against other gamers or needed to update their console to play were unable to.

What is a DDoS attack?

A Distributed Denial of Service attack is a way for malicious hackers to make a website, email service or network to stop working by overloading it with traffic. This flood of requests, usually from thousands of remote-controlled computers called a botnet, causes the targeted service to respond to these requests rather than legitimate ones from real users causing it to freeze up and essentially shut down.

Phantom Squad, which has no relation to Lizard Squad, has claimed on Twitter it will do the same thing this year and plans to keep the service down for a whole week. An attack taking down Sony and Microsoft networks will render new consoles useless for anyone unwrapping theirs as they will require updates from the networks upon set-up.

The same is applicable to some games too, so if you've asked for a new title to enjoy over the Christmas break you could be resigned to dusting off Monopoly instead.

The hacking group has responded to online criticism over why they would perform such an act stating they are doing it to highlight the lack of security provided by Sony and Microsoft — companies that earn billions each year. However, it could also be a dash of thrill-seeking, a pinch of fame and a heap of satisfaction at upsetting order and watching the chaos it creates.

One could assume this is simply the work of a teen who wants a bit of attention. They have already claimed responsibility to outages at Xbox Live and Reddit, as well as performed alleged attacks on Steam and the servers for GTA 5 and Call of Duty: Black Ops 3.

Kim Dotcom, the founder of Megaupload, has weighed in on the subject warning that Sony and Microsoft have had 12 months to bolster their security since the attack last year that bought gamers to their knees. An avid gamer himself, he helped end last year's DDoS by offering the hackers 3,000 accounts on his encrypted upload service.

We can only hope Sony and Microsoft have their acts together or Phantom Squad is puffing a load of hot air. Or, the hackers find their Christmas spirit and decide to not punish gamers who just want to relax and enjoy their new gifts to prove a point.